Opening Day, April 1, 2013 is 29 days away. There have been one hundred walk off home runs in Angels history. This is the story of #29, a walk off grand slam by an unsung Angel with four walk off home runs as a Halo.
July 25, 1976 - If there is any argument against baseball's current playoff structure, a look at the standings on July 25, 1976 should sway one to consider that maybe, just maybe, Commissioner Bud Selig got it right after all when he realigned baseball into three divisions and a wild card in the mid-1990s. The four teams in first place on this date were the Yankees and Royals in the American League and the Phillies and Reds in the National League. The leads were 14.5, 8, 12 and 7 Games respectively.
So there were our California Angels in last place, 18 games behind Kansas City. The only motivation for players to play out the stretch of games was that third place and above got playoff shares. The only reason for fans to attend games when their team was far behind with half a season left to play had to be for the love of the game itself... and games like this in particular, just ask any of the 8,532 in attendance that Sunday afternoon...
Angels starter Gary Ross had scattered six hits and two walks and had a 3-1 lead going into the ninth inning. The Angels had scored all three runs in the bottom of the second inning off of Rangers starter Nelson Briles and were in cruise control. Ross got into some trouble in the ninth inning, though, and with one on and two out, Angels manger brought in Mickey Scott to finish the game.
Pinch hitter Jim Fregosi (yes, that Jim Fregosi) singled to load the bases and in came Dick Drago. Lenny Randle hit a two-run single and the game went into extra innings tied 3-3.
Steve Foucault had pitched the end of the eighth for the Rangers and had a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth against the Angels. Drago pitched the tenth and eleventh without incident. Foucault came out for the eleventh and gave up a single to Terry Humphrey. Dave Chalk bunted over the Angels catcher and Rusty Torres grounded out, moving Torres to 3B.
To induce a force groundout at any base, Rangers manager Frank Lucchesi had Foucault intentionally walk the next two batters, Jerry Remy and Bobby Bonds (yes, that Bobby Bonds, Barry's dad) and up to the plate stepped Leroy Stanton. He had pinch-ran for DH Tony Solaita in the eighth and had sac bunted in his only Plate Appearance in the game.
Well, he went one for one that night. Leroy Stanton hit a tie-breaking extra inning walk off grand slam. Final Score: Angels 7, Rangers 3. At the time, Stanton tied Jim Fregosi for the Angels record of four walk off home runs. His tie with Fregosi remains, but in third place, behind Tim Salmon's six and Brian Downing's five walk off home runs for the Angels. Stanton is the only one of them who hit one while credited in the box score as a Pinch Runner.